Donald Trump is running for president again. Local GOP reaction is muted, if a day-old survey is any indication.
Times of San Diego on Monday night contacted more than 40 prominent local Republicans, asking if they’d support a 2024 Trump candidacy or someone else’s.
Five responded Tuesday. One — defeated 79th Assembly candidate Corbin Sabol — said he had no opinion, since “a lot can happen between then and now.”
Among those not answering email, Facebook messages or website forms were Rep. Darrell Issa, county Supervisors Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and radio host Carl DeMaio.
Other notable no-shows were county GOP Chairwoman Paula Whitsell, sheriff candidate John Hemmerling, re-elected state Sen. Brian Jones, Assembly members Marie Waldron and Randy Voepel and termed-out San Diego Councilman Chris Cate.
Chula Vista mayor leader John McCann, Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones also didn’t respond.
But San Diego school board candidate Rebecca “Becca” Williams did.
She hoped Trump wouldn’t run.
“He would lose by a large margin,” said Williams, the District C hopeful who lost to Cody Petterson. “Everyone needs to move on.”
She said she was unfairly labeled a “MAGA extremist” in opposition mailers.
“I look forward to the day when Republicans can run for office and this no longer ‘sticks,’” Williams said, later adding that if Trump does decide to run, “and Democrats are clever, which they are, they will boost him through the primaries.”
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, a former Trump supporter, is conflicted this time.
“Though the primary system is often painful, I think that competition is usually a good thing,” he said via email. “I have faith that the right person will prevail. If that person is Donald Trump, I will support him.”
But Wells says he’s open to a less offensive hopeful “if that candidate could be as effective as was President Trump.”
He says he also admires Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Congress member and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who visited El Cajon in July 2021.
He added: “When people complain to me about how bad [Trump] is, or was, I asked the question: What policy did he enact that was damaging to you or someone you know?”
Invariably, he said, most people “can’t answer that question. I think the reason for this is that his policies were overall very good for the country, but there is a palpable fear and hatred of the man.”
So Wells would prefer a GOP nominee who could bring “the solid policies of the Trump administration without the vitriol. … However, I fear that whoever takes on the conservative mantle will become the next most hated man in the world, or perhaps the most hated woman in the world.”
Eric E. Gonzales, a 22-year Navy man who lost to 78th District Assemblyman Chris Ward, is all in for the 45th president becoming the 47th as well, however.
Trump proved that a career politician is detrimental to America while making the case that an outsider can make a difference in politics, he said.
“His record from his first term will stand as the best four years of any president,” Gonzales said, “compared to the atrocity that is occurring from the current sitting president.”
He added: “President Trump’s unrelenting capacity to work for the people of the United States is well-documented. I look forward to campaigning for him in his bid for a well deserved second term.”
Calling himself an America First candidate, Gonzales said Trump led the country in the right direction for the first time since President Reagan.
“We need to get back to that!” he wrote. “Our constitutional republic requires individuals who will uphold those values according to what our Founders insisted upon. Which we currently do not have.
“President Trump exposed what the political elite have been compromising what the United States stands for and the expectancy of its people. All across our nation, ordinary people have risen up to the challenge to bring back the American greatness and display of strength abroad.”
He concluded: “As a retired Navy veteran, I did not serve our country to watch it go by the wayside.”
Dan Summers, leader of the American Liberty Forum of Ramon, is another Trump booster.
“The vast majority of politicians are talkers not doers,” he said. “President Trump is an unapologetic doer. He accomplished more in four years than perhaps any other president in history.”
Summers said he didn’t care about Trump’s mean tweets or his sometimes gruff exterior.
“I only care about his accomplishments at home and abroad,” he said. “Ask economically challenged families in the Northeast how they are going to pay for their heating bills this winter. Ask the parents of dead youngsters who died from fentanyl overdoses about Biden’s open border. Ask the veteran about the improvements Trump accomplished at the Veterans Administration.”
Summers continued: “Ask the parents of the dead soldiers killed in Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan who they support. And I maintain that Russia would never have invaded Ukraine if Trump was president.”
Trump Aides File Paperwork
Trump aides filed paperwork for a 2024 presidential bid Tuesday as supporters gathered at his gilt-edged Florida resort where he was expected to announce a new White House bid that would return his false claims of election fraud to the center of U.S. politics.
Bradley Crate, who has previously worked for Trump political organizations, filed paperwork with the U.S. Federal Election Commission setting up a committee called “Donald J. Trump for President 2024.”
Trump’s expected announcement late on Tuesday follows a disappointing showing in last week’s midterm congressional elections that many Republicans blame on him.
The unusually early launch may well be aimed at fending off potential challengers for the party’s nomination in 2024, including rising star Florida Gov. DeSantis, 44, and Trump’s own former vice president, Pence, 63.
It comes as Republicans closed in on the 218 seats they need to take a majority in the 435-seat House of Representatives.
Sources close to Trump said he planned to push ahead despite mixed results from his endorsements this year, with losses by celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Don Bolduc in New Hampshire contributing to Republicans’ failure to win a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Another Trump-picked candidate, former football star Herschel Walker, was forced into a Dec. 6 runoff in his Georgia race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. That has raised some concerns that Trump’s announcement could again hurt the party’s chances in a Georgia runoff, similar to the January 2021 runoff that gave Democrats their current majority.
Multiple Trump-aligned candidates who ran on platforms focused on his false claims of widespread election fraud were also defeated.
Conservative columnist Marc Thiessen urged him not to run again.
“That should be a wake-up call for Trump. He cannot win the presidency with his base alone,” Thiessen wrote in a Washington Post column. “His conduct since losing office has made him unelectable.”
Jason Miller, a Trump adviser, said the former president will urge his supporters to back Walker in a speech that he described as “forward looking.” Trump decided to make his announcement now to provide some excitement for Republicans, Miller said.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken before the midterm elections showed that 53% of Americans and almost one in four Republicans view Trump unfavorably. The poll showed a similar number of Americans viewing Biden unfavorably.
Trump plans to launch his campaign nearly two years before the Nov. 5, 2024, election despite these concerns, said two sources familiar with his plans.
Pence released a book on Tuesday detailing Trump’s unsuccessful pressure campaign to overturn his 2020 defeat.
DeSantis, who Trump has given the derisive nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious,” handily won re-election last week.
On Tuesday afternoon, a plane towed a banner above Mar-a-Lago that read “You lost again Donald! #DeSantis2024.”
Trump’s Legal Troubles
Trump will seek his party’s nomination even as he faces trouble on several fronts, including a criminal investigation into the removal of classified documents from the White House as well as a congressional subpoena related to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack by his supporters. Trump has called the various investigations he faces politically motivated and denies wrongdoing.
One of his former top executives, Allen Weisselberg, testified on Tuesday as a witness for the prosecution in a tax-fraud trial targeting Trump’s namesake company.
The businessman-turned-politician, who has sought to maintain an iron grip on the Republican Party since leaving office, has persisted in making false claims that the 2020 election he lost to Biden was stolen through widespread voting fraud.
Trump is seeking to become only the second U.S. president in history to serve non-consecutive terms, after Grover Cleveland, whose second stint ended in 1897. Biden, 79, has said he intends to run for re-election to a second four-year term in office, though he has yet to make a final decision.
During his turbulent 2017-2021 presidency, Trump defied democratic norms and promoted “America First” nationalism while presenting himself as a right-wing populist. He became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, though congressional Democrats failed in their attempts to remove him from office.
At a rally that preceded the Capitol attack, Trump urged supporters to “fight like hell” and march on Congress to “stop the steal,” but the mob that subsequently stormed the Capitol failed to prevent Congress from formally certifying Biden’s election victory.
Four people died on the day in the violence, one shot dead by police and the other three of natural causes. A Capitol Police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day. Two police officers who took part in the defense of the Capitol later took their own lives. More than a hundred police officers were injured.
Even though court and state election officials rejected Trump’s false election claims, about two-thirds of Republican voters believe Biden’s victory was illegitimate, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.
Reuters reporting by Steve Holland in Palm Beach, Florida, and Andy Sullivan in Washington.